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tv   Book TV  CSPAN  December 20, 2009 1:00pm-2:00pm EST

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debate until 11:30 a.m. and then adjourn. the senate will come back in the session at 12:01 a.m. eastern for a key test vote which is scheduled for monday morning at one eastern. live coverage now of the u.s. senate on c-span 2. recess: the presiding officer: the senate will come to order. the chaplain will lead the senate in prayer. the chaplain: let us pray. most merciful god, the fountain of wisdom and goodness, on this
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snowy weekend, guide our lawmakers with your insights. when confused thoughts emerge, clarify and straighten them with your wisdom. bring their desires and powers into conformity to your will. may their lives be as lighted windows amid the encircling gloom. lord, save them from a cynical pessimism by reminding them that these challenging times are in your hands. strengthen their resolve to press on with focused attention on the duties of this day.
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bless also the many unseen workers who support our senators with sacrificial and sacred labors. lord, reward them for their diligence and patriotism. we pray in your merciful name. amen. the presiding officer: please join me in reciting the pledge of allegiance. i pledge allegiance to the flag of the united states of america and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under god, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. the presiding officer: the clerk will read a communication to the senate.
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the clerk: washington, d.c, december 20, 2009. to the senate: under the provisions of rule 1, paragraph 3, of the standing rules of the senate, i hereby appoint the honorable jeanne shaheen, a senator from the state of new hampshire, to perform the duties of the chair. signed: robert c. byrd, president pro tempore. mr. reid: madam president? the presiding officer: the majority leader. mr. reid: following leader remarks, the senate will resume consideration of the health care legislation with the time between 1:30 between the two leaders and their designees, between 1:30 and 11:30 tonight, there will be alternating hours with the republicans controlling the first hour. at 11:30 p.m., the senate will recess until 12:01 a.m. with the time until 1:00 a.m. equally divided and controlled between their leaders their designees, with the democratic leader controlling the final ten minutes and the republican leader the ten minutes before that. at 1:00 a.m., the senate will proceed to a vote in relation to the health care bill.
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that time until i have at 1:30 i designate to the [inawd inaudi] the presiding officer: without objection. under the previous order, the leadership sometime reserved. under the previous order, the senate will resume consideration of h.r. 3590, which the clerk will report. the clerk: calendar number 175, 3590, an act to amend the internal revenue code of 1986 to modify the first time home buyers credit in the cases of the armed forces and certain other federal employees and for other purposes. mr. durbin: madam president? the presiding officer: under the previous order, the time until 1:30 p.m. shall be equally divided and controlled between the two leaders or their designees. the senator from illinois. mr. durbin: madam president, i thank the majority leader for designating haft of the time between now and 1:-- half of the time between now and 1:30 that i should control.
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and i would first like to thank all the people that are here, the staff and pages. this has been a tough session for many but tougher for many of them than some members of the senate because they have had to wait until the very last senator of either political party has finished for the day many times before they go home, and i was reflecting on that yesterday afternoon in the midst of one of the toughest historic snowstorms here in washington, d.c., that hundreds of staff people were waiting at their post, doing their jobs on a saturday in the middle of a snowstorm when virtually every business around washington was closing down. and i just want to thank them and the pages and both sides of the aisle for their patience and commitment to this great country and this great institution. why are we here on sunday? why are we here on saturday. why are we going to take a vote at 1:00 in the morning on monday? good questions, and i'm not sure that there are satisfying an but there are answers. we are here because we are
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trying to finish health care reform. it has been a project that's been underway for almost a year now since the president challenged us to do something, and a lot of effort has been expended on both sides of the aisle. but i'll say i can speak for our side of the aisle, snars max baucus came -- senator max baucus came to me more than a year ago and sat down in my office to talk about health care reform. he was preparing for this battle as chairman of the senate finance committee and knew he would play a central role gathering the opinions of members of his committee and members of the senate. efforts were underway with senator kennedy from his remote location in massachusetts recuperating from surgery and from cancer therapy, trying to keep his committee on track toward health care reform. he turned over that mantle to senator christopher dodd of connecticut, who did an admirable job with the senate health, education, and labor committee. they prepared and had hearings. they entertained hundreds of amendments, and, in fact, i
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believe there were over 160 amendments that were considered by the republicans and many of them were adopted in the "help" committee. senator coburn of oklahoma filed 212 amendments during the "help" committee markup. he offered 38 amendments to the bill. 19 of his amendments -- half of them -- were agreed to. of those that were not agreed to -- of those that were offered, 15 were not agreed to, all by roll call vote. so 13 amendments offered by the senator from oklahoma were included in the bill that is before us today. he has questioned whether or not the current procedure gives him an opportunity to offer amendments. the fact is, we are now on our 21st day of considering health care reform. exactly four amendments have been offered by the republican side of the aisle, four substantive amendments to change provisions in this bill of 2,000
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pages. 21 days, four amendments. they offered six motions to stop the debate, send the bill back to committee. they're generic amendments. they don't ask for specific changes. they just take on an issue in the bill and say send it back to the committee and tell them to solve this problem and then bring it back to the floor at a later time. well, that's kind of a procedural and, if i might say, political statement more than a substantive statement about a provision in the bill. so exactly four amendments have been offered by the republican side of the aisle that deal with substance. some of their efforts have been in protection of the health insurance industry, particularly a program called medicare advantage, which was created by private health insurance companies to prove to government they could provide medicare more cheaply. some did but most didn't. and now we're paying up to $17 billion a year subsidizing private health insurance companies who told us at the start, we'll save you money. turns out they're costing us
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money, a lot of money. and many of us think it's wasteful, we'd rather have that money spent on basic medicare, making certain that there's solvency in medicare and a good, strong future. so when you look at the state of the situation, we are now on a cloture motion to bring a close to the debate on health care reform after almost three weeks and four republican amendments -- only four were offered. there never was a republican substitute, no republican proposal for health care reform. we've been told this might exi exist. we've never seen it. of the four amendments they offered, not one was this substitute that was going to deal with the health care syst system. it's a promise that hasn't been kept. they kept saying, it's coming, it will -- pretty soon we're just going to put this thing right in the record. well, it never happened. in tre three weeks, it never happened. and it's hard work to prepare a substitute. the reason this took so long and has dragged on for so long is we had to take every page of this and turn it over to the congressional budget office and they sit there with their
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economists and pour over it and say well, is it going to add to the deficit or reduce the deficit, is it going to reduce health care costs, what's the impact. and it takes them some time to do that. the republicans know if they're going to have a substitute, it will have to go through the same rigorous appraisal and they haven't done that. i think because it's hard. in fact, from their political point of view, it may be impossible to try to solve the problems facing health care in america without really taking the path that we've taken. now, what does this bill do? the basics are obvious. first -- and this is all backed up by the congressional budget office -- it will reduce the cost of health care. it will make it more affordable. a health care policy for four, a family of four, offered by an employer on average costs $6,000 ten years ago. today it costs $12,000 a year. it's doubled in ten yearsment and in eight years, we'll double again to $24,000.
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we have got to slow this down or it will reach a point more and more people will be uninsured, fewer businesses will offer health insurance, and more individuals will find themselves unable to afford basic protections that they need for themselves and their families. so the congressional budget office tells us we reduced the growth in the cost of health care and that's a good thing. and they came through with dramatic revelation yesterday when they said that this bill will reduce our deficit as well. if the costs of health care go down, the cost of health care programs offered by government go down. they tell us in ten years we'll save $130 billion from the deficit. that is a dramatic savings, the largest in history, but then the news got better. they said in the second ten years, instead of saving $650 billion from our debt and deficit, it could reach double that amount, $1.3 trillion in savings in the second ten years. i would say to those who give speeches day after day about our deficit, i invite you, in fact,
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i challenge you to come up with a bill that does this, that gives us actual savings of $130 billion in ten years and $1.3 trillion in the next ten years. it's hard to do. it may be impossible for some to come up with such a bill. this bill also will extend the coverage of health insurance so that 94% of americans will have coverage. 30 million americans today who have no health insurance will have health insurance under this bill. half of them are poor enough that they'll receive medicaid. the other half will qualify for 9 insurance exchanges -- for the insurance exchanges and other tax credits to help them pay their people are yups so tha --premiums so that they cane and afford health insurance. 93% of americans, we have never, ever achieved a level of insured americans that reached that number. 30 million americans will be receiving health insurance at the end of the day. and this bill will start giving consumers across america
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protections that they need against abuses from health insurance companies. one of the things near and dear to my heart about this amendme amendment, which has been criticized by some, this amendment which was offered yesterday, has been on the internet for those who are interested to read for 24 hours and will continue to be available. this amendment says that as soon as this is signed, health insurance companies across america cannot deny coverage to children, those under the age of 18, because of a preexisting condition. that means if your son or daughter is diagnosed with diabetes, juvenile diabetes and you find it difficult to get health insurance today because of that preexisting condition, they will no longer be able to discriminate against your child and your family because of this bill. that's one thing. there are many others. this whole notion that health insurance companies wait until you get sick and cut you off just when you need them the most? that comes to an end under this amendment in six months. so over and over again, we give consumers across america a
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chance to have the coverage they paid for when they need it the most. we used to call it a patients' bill of rights and it used to be bipartisan. it was senator kennedy and senator mccain who brought us to it -- brought it to us and it failed because the health insurance crpz s companies wereo political powerful. but we've got them this time f. we can pass this bill, we finally have the protections that the american people so desperately need. there are many other provisions in this bill. right from the beginning we provide more help to small businesses. these are businesses with 50, 25 employees, an average payroll of $50,000 an employee to $25,000 an employee or less. and for each of those business businesses, we say we're going to help you buy health insurance. for the owners of the business as well as for the employees. you know, those are the folks that are struggling and losing coverage. people like the realtors in your hometown. did you know one out of four realtors in america have no health insurance? i didn't know it until they came to see me. well, this gives them a hand, gives them a tax break as a
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small business to provide health insurance for their people. so, madam president, i'm going to reserve the balance of my time but i will tell you, we're here today, we're burning the hours off the clock to vote at 1:00 a.m. in the morning. it would be more humane to the people who work here, to the members of the senate and their families for us to reach a gently and gentlewomanly agreement that we will -- gentlemenly and gentlewomanly agreement that we will have this vote at a more reasonable time. if we have the 60 votes -- which i think we have the commitments for -- then we can decide how to move forward. we've had a long, arduous, sometimes taxing debate leading to this moment. i think it's time for a vote, and the sooner we can reach that vote, the sooner the american people will know whether we succeed or fail in bringing stability and security when it comes to their health insurance, making that health insurance more affordable, extending the reach and protection of health insurance to record levels of americans, making sure we have health insurance reform as part of this, and at the same time,
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is he very same time, reducing our deficit. i reserve the balance of my time. the presiding officer: who yields time? mr. durbin durbin: madam presidw much time do i have remaining? mr. durbin: madam president -- madam president madam president i'd like to suggest the absence of a quorum and at that time under the quorum be allotted equally to both sides. the presiding officer: without objection, the clerk will call the roll.
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quorum call:
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mr. chambliss: madam president? the presiding officer: the senator from georgia. mr. chambliss: what is the current status of the senate? the presiding officer: the senate is in a quorum call. mr. chambliss: i would ask unanimous consent that the quorum call be vitiated. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. chambliss: and, is it correct, madam president, that the minority side has the hour from 1:30 until 2:30? the presiding officer: that is correct under the previous order the time until 11:30 p.m. shall be controlled in alternating one-hour blocks with the republicans controlling the first hour. mr. chambliss: i would ask unanimous consent that senators cornyn, graham, isakson, and myself be allowed to have a colloquy for this first hour from 1:30 until 2:30.
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the presiding officer: without objection. mr. chambliss: madam president, here we are on our 21st legislative day. less than four weeks on the most major piece of health care legislation ever proposed in the history of our great country. that's less than four weeks that we've been on this bill that seeks to change the way health care is delivered in america and also seeks to change the way that individuals have access, both to health care itself, as well as to insurance. during this period of time, and we're headed, i might say, too, towards a passage of this bill, here in the senate over the next couple of days. i don't remember in my 15 years in the united states congress, both in the house and in the senate, of any major piece of legislation such as this being debated and ultimately brought to a final vote within such a
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period of time. i've been involved in farm bills that have been on the floor for longer than this. any number of other pieces of legislation that we deal with on a regular basis that have been on the floor for longer than that period of time. i heard the assistant majority leader on the floor a little earlier talking about the fact that we've had the opportunity to amend this bill. well, the fact is the republicans have been offered the opportunity to introduce 10 amendments to this massive piece of legislation for debate on the floor. we've got a number of other amendments that have been filed. the four of us here today have significant amendments that we filed that now we're not going to have the opportunity to call up. and it's extremely unusual for such a massive change in american policy being debated
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and voted upon without not only bipartisan support, but without bipartisan participation from the standpoint of giving us the opportunity to file amendments, have those amendments debated and voted upon. the assistant majority leader also referenced amendments by senator coburn, and i'm not going to speak for him. he'll be on the floor later today to certainly speak well for himself. but the fact is that he and other members of the -- of the "help" committee offered any number of amendments as well as members of the finance committee offered any number of amendments that were voted down in the "help" committee and in the finance committee on a pure partisan vote. there was the opportunity for meaningful participation by republicans who have some pretty good ideas about health care to participate in the development of this bill and it simply
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didn't happen. now, let me say what republicans are for. because there's been comments on this floor, there's been no substitute bill -- that there's been no substitute bill offered. the fact of the matter is that senator burr and senator coburn, who will be on the floor a little bit later, have spent hours -- hours on the floor of this senate talking go their proposed bill that is not going to see the light of day. it has never been allowed come up in committee and it's not going to come up on the floor because the majority leader has done what we call, fill the tree, which is washington speak way of saying that all amendments will be cut off. there will be no more additional amendments debated -- and brought up for a vote. but that's just one of four separate plans that have been filed and laid on the table. not just for the last 72 hours, but for the last several months.
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and they've been available to look at online. there are any number of cosponsors to the bipartisan wyden-bennett bill. there's the gregg bill, the coburn-burr bill. there are any number of proposals out there that the majority decided that we don't think those bills are worth debating on the floor. so they've not allowed those bills to come up. what are republicans for? we said this over an over and over again. let me just say that we're number one for meaningful, affordable access to health insurance by every single american. and we can do it in a way that doesn't raise taxes. we are for providing coverage for all americans, including those who have preexisting conditions. we can do it in a way that does not raise taxes. we are for trending down the
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cost curve which when it comes to health care reform, if we don't turn that cost curve downward, then we have failed the american people. and, frankly, the independent congressional budget office has said that health care costs under the reid proposal is going to not only continue to go up, but it's likely to -- not continue on its current curve, but it's not only going to go up, but not go down. just two republican proposals that we think have an awful lot of merit, but are not going to be considered and certainly are not going to be included -- are not included in the managers' amendment that has now been filed. one of those is tort reform. physicians all across the country have been crying for this for years, but more so health agencies and individuals who have to pay health care bills have been crying for this
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for years. and we can do it in a way that will allow every aggrieved individual who is injured as a result of neglect health care being delivered to have their day in court. and, yet, we need to provide some means of the elimination of the frivolous lawsuits that go so much towards physicians having to call for tests that they might not otherwise need and also to prevent the spiraling costs of -- on the delivery side of -- of health care because of the high cost of malpractice insurance as well as -- as other measures. the other way we can trend that cost down is to provide preventive incentives to individuals across america who live healthier lives. and there are example after example that we've talked about
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on the floor of the senate from health care providers, employers, who have provided incentives in their -- in their health insurance program that have, in fact, lowered costs. and we can do that. and there are proposals to do that, but they're not included in the managers' package. insurance reform. republicans have been very strong about the fact that as a part of overall health care reform, we need to reform the insurance industry, rein some measures that have caused the cost of health insurance that's provided by employers to, again, not only level off but ultimately trend downward. and how do we do that and what ideas have been proposed? we are proposed for the sale of insurance policies across statelines. there is a provision in the underlying bill that does that, and i'm very pleased to see that included. another thing that we can do is to allow for what's called
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associated health plans that republicans have been promoting for years. and every time it's come up for a vote in this body, the -- the democrats have opposed, allowing individuals across state lines to group together and spread the risk of health insurance coverage. it would go a long ways towards reducing the cost of health insurance premiums, but, unfortunately, we have not been allowed to move forward with that proposal. let me just mention a couple of things before i turn to my friend from texas with respect to the changes in the reid amendment that was filed yesterday. again, there had been a number of individuals who had come to the floor since that amendment was filed yesterday to talk about the fact that it's online and -- and, as we look through it more and more, we're finding more and more about it that's true, but it certainly doesn't meet the test of giving us 72
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hours before we vote on it. the number of pages in the bill now, the base bill, plus the reid amendment, plus the indian health bill, which is now included by reference, totals 2,077 pages. the gross medicare cuts, and these are not slowing the growth of medicare. these are direct medicare cuts that are being used to finance the underlying health care bill now tetle 4 -- tota total $470.7 billion. the gross tax increases in the reid amendment now tota total $518.5 billion. c.b.o. said that the gross cost of the insurance coverage expansion is $23 billion higher under the reid amendment than it was under the base bill. federal revenues or federal taxes increase by almos almost $26 billion under the managers' package. all totalle the amendment
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reduces the deficit by $2 billion going fro from $130 billion t to $132 billion. but, boy, is that ever a fig leaf and we're going to talk about the class act that provides for that increase in the deficit. the federal cost curve, according to c.b.o., still goes up. and i allude to that a little bit earlier. there's a slight increase in additional coverage. but, still, under the reid amendment there will be 23 million americans left uninsured. that's not what we've heard from the other side of the aisle from day one about making sure that every single american was covered. despite the fact the facts have said that changes in the managers' package would improve the delivery system, c.b.o. also says that it's likely that the amendment will have little impact on premiums.
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so, madam president, as we move towards the cloture votes on this bill over the next couple of days, i think it's important for the american people to get some understanding of the fact that the deals that have been made, the deals have that have been cut to get the democrats to 60 votes on this bill, don't do what's been said over and over again by folks on the other side of the aisle. i'd now like to ask my friend from texas how it impacts texas, the managers' amendment, as well as the underlying bill and other comments he has relative to the bill. mr. cornyn: madam president, i thank the senator from georgia, and i look forward to engaging in a further colloquy with both of our senators from georgia and our senator from south carolina, senator graham. the presiding officer: the senator from texas. mr. cornyn: i've been in the senate now seven years, which is not all that long compared to
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the length of service of a number of senators. and i was and have been proud to represent the 24 million citizens of the state of texas here in the senate. in a seat first held by sam houston in 1846. sometimes the senate is referred to as the world's greatest deliberative body. and i think that certainly -- that description is the -- is a description that inspires school children and lovers of this great democracy of ours to admire and respect this body. but i have to tell you, i think the world's greatest deliberative body might not apply to this particular piece of legislation. it might, rather, be called the world's biggest railroad because of the railroading of the legislation that was revealed here only yesterday by senator reid, cooked up behind closed
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doors with a variety of interest groups negotiating deals on the side. deals that are unknown. we know some of those pertain to hospitals. some to the pharmaceutical companies. and then i heard one of our other senators from north carolina yesterday said, well, really we should call this the price is right. because we know a number of senators held out for various inducements -- financial inducements to encourage them to get to the 60 votes. so we don't know what kind of deals have been cut behind closed doors. what kind of deals individual senators may have made. but the american people need to know what's in this legislation and how it will affect them. and, unfortunately, notwithstanding the fact that the president of the united states said, you know what? when i'm elected president, we're going to have negotiations around a big table and televise it on c-span.
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good luck. so much for that broken promise. we know that other senators who express the same concerns that the senator from -- the senator from georgia did about having at least 72 hours by posting this on the internet, at least 72 hours so that the american people can read it and so we can consult the with our constituents, the hospitals, the small businesses, the doctors who say, you know, how does this affect -- how does this affect you? and we had eight democratic senators on october 6, 2009, said they wanted the c.b.o. scores and they wanted to post it 72 hours ahead of time before the first vote. well, so much for that. we know that's going to be thrown out the door as well. and that demand, i suppose, was made more for public relations rather than any real desire to find out what's in the bill an share it with the american
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people -- and share it with the american people. we know the legislative language will be available 40 hours before the first vote at 1:00 a.m. this morning, literally in the middle of the night. and this congressional budget office score is available only 37 hours before the first vote. and what we're talking about is -- is this legislation. the senator from georgia said 2,700 pages, i believe, when you consider all of the legislation that we're going to be asked to vote on the first time on a cloture vote at 1:00 a.m. in the morning. about 12 hours from now. and we've been feverishly reviewing this language to find out what's in it. and, frankly, what we find out is it makes things worse rather than better in a number of key respects. for example, we know that america spends near double what any other industrialized nation does on health care. and one of the stated goals, one in which the democrats and the republicans both agree, is that
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this reform ought to control those costs rather than make it worse. and and i have an amendment, an amendment numbered 2806, designed to ensure that health care reform achieves the goal we all support. well, we know that private insurance premiums have more than doubled in the last ten years for american families. the congressional budget office estimates that taxpayer spending on government health programs will rise to 12% of our economy by 2050. that will be a debt of $322,000 for the unfunded liabilities of medicare alone. this bill does not make things better. it makes things worse. according to the obama administration's chief actuary. and so i have an amendment, madam president, which would apply the truth test to the obama administration's own
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independent actuary based on the evidenced reid bill will increase health care costs for the nation, for american families, for american taxpayers. this amendment leaf leaves up io the actuary for the center for medicare and medicaid services, if that office finds the reid bill does lower health care costs as advertised, the bill will then proceed to go into effect. but if, in fact, it doesn't, then it will not. now, advocates of the reid health bill continue to promise that it lowers health care costs but this amendment will apply the truth test to the obama administration's own independent actuary. madam president, i see the distinguished majority whip on the floor and i'm glad he is here because he may have something to say about this. but i would at this time, madam president, ask unanimous consent that the pending amendment be set aside and that i be allowed to call up amendment number 2806. the presiding officer: is there objection? mr. durbin: madam president, reserving the right to object.
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the presiding officer: the senator from illinois. mr. durbin: madam president, this is 291st day of debate. -- this is the 21st day of debate. there have been four substantive amendments offered by the republican side. they've had ample opportunity to offer this or -- mr. cornyn: regular order. the presiding officer: regular order has been called for. does the senator object? mr. durbin: i object. the presiding officer: the objection is heard. mr. cornyn: madam president, i want to just ask maybe some of my colleagues to comment on some of the other broken promises that we've seen. we've seen the president say that he made a solemn pledge that he'd sign a universal health care bill. now, this bill, as i understand it, still leaves, i want to say, 15 million people without insurance coverage. and he says the costs will be cut by up to $2,500 a year but the reality is the average premiums would increase by
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$2,100. i would ask our distinguished colleagues from north carolina and georgia to comment with respect to the promise the president has made with regard to transparency, the promises he's made with premiums going up rather than down, the promises he's made with regard to medicare, the promises he's made that approximate aappears this bill will not allow him to keep. mr. graham graham: everything t8 campaign has been around about has basically been discredited and discarded in this whole health care debate. i thought it was change we could believe in. i thought there was going to be a new way of doing business in washington. and god knows, there needs to be. i thought we were going to negotiate the health care bill on c-span and everybody would have a seat at the table, including the drug companies. i thought we were going to allow reimportation of prescription drugs to allow americans to purchase prescription drugs dramatically cheaper. not only have we not had any negotiations on c-span, you couldn't find the room where the
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negotiations were going on. the old way of doing business looks good compared to this process. there was a negotiation going on on the biggest proposal we'll probably ever vote on, one-sixth of the economy, between two people, the senate majority leader and the senator from nebraska, the second in command on the democratic side told senator mccain, well, i'm just as in the dark as you are. well, we've gone from a promise to be on c-span to everybody was in the dark. so i don't know how that plays. i hope it plays poorly because at the end of the day, what we're doing here is just absolutely unconscionable. and when you thought it couldn't get any worse in washington, you thought your government had reached a low point, it has. i'll talk about how they got that 60th vote. and if that's okay with the
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american people -- which i don't believe it will be -- if that's okay with this body then our best days are behind us as a country. mr. cornyn: if i could ask the senator about this other promise. if he recalls the president saying back in july of 2009 that you -- if you like what you ha have, you can keep it. is the senator aware of the fact that according to the congressional budget office that between 8 million and 9 million people who wouldn't have been covered by an employment-based plan under the current law would not have an offer of such coverage under this bill if passed. and seniors, because of the cuts to medicare, particularly medicare advantage, they will actually have their benefits cut. how do you reconcile those promises with what we see in this monstrosity of a bill? mr. graham: they can't be wreck side. i hope american seniors are paying attention to what's going on here. we're going to take $470 billion out of medicare over the next decade and we're going to use that money to create new
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government programs. so if you're a senior citizen out there, the doctors and the hospitals that you go to -- and they're hard to find medicare doctors right now -- a lot of doctors are reluctant to take medicare patients because the reimbursement rates are so low. rural hospitals are on their knees now because the medicare rates are so low. take $470 billion out of the system and see what happens to the provider community. what does it mean to seniors? it means that your chance of finding a hospital or a doctor to take care of you as a medicare patient is going down, not up. what does it mean to medicare? it's due to go bankrupt in 2017. by taking money out of the system and not reforming medicare but using it for another purpose has accelerated the problems with medicare. not only is that promise broken, we have done something that no other congress has ever done to medicare: take money out of it and give it to somebody else. that's just not right and we were within inches of expanding medicare to people from 55 to 64 which were to put the system at
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risk. my point is simply this. we started this debate as a way to reform health care and a lot of us agree on many things. it wound up being, what does the democratic party need to do to pass a bill. and nobody cares what's in the bill anymore. all the objections about the class act and about fiscal responsibility and about the public option being in or out have given away, just to get this thing done before christm christmas. this is not about health care reform. it's about one political party feeling like they would have passed a bill no matter what's in it, and that's sad. mr. cornyn: i wonder if my colleagues would comment, i just have one last chart i want to say share with them and anybody who might be watching on this sunday afternoon shortly before christmas. you know, every public opinion poll i've seen says the american people do not want us to pass this bill. so you wonder, all of us have to run for election in our states.
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obviously to win an election, you've got to get a majority of voters. but 56% of u.s. voters in the country say they don't want this bill to pass, and yet this thing seems like it's on an unstoppable path toward passage because 60 senators apparently define the will of their constituents, seem determined to pass the bill. can you explain to me what you think is going on here? mr. chambliss: well, i think it's obvious that it's pure arrogance on the part of the folks on the other side of the aisle. american people don't want it but they're saying that washington knows better than what the people back home know. that's pretty clear. and i know my colleague from georgia's like me. when we go back home, we get stopped in the airport, in the grocery store, on the streets all around different parts of georgia and people are not happy about what's going on up here with respect to this bill. and i'd like to ask him about his comments with respect to where we are. mr. isakson: well, like the
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senator from texas and the senator from south carolina and my senior senator from george george, we all represent -- the senator from georgia, we all represent the people that vote for us. and with regard to popularity and about the way people feel about this legislation, i'd like to ask unanimous consent to introduce into the record two letters, one from the medical association of georgia and one from a consolidated group of medical associations representing 92,000 physicians. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. isakson: and i want to tell what you these letters say. the first -- the first one is to me from president gary c. richter, the president of the georgia medical association -- medical association of georgia, who writes in great detail about the difficulties and the problems that they have with this legislation, beginning with its stonewall against tort reform by only putting in a demonstration project. and the senator from texas is aware of what tort reform can do because his state has made a great improvement in medical malpractice costs because of tort reform and we in georgia have tried to experience the same type of thing. but many other reasons are in here as well.
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and the interesting thing about the letter from the 92,000 physicians represented by their medical associations, they talk not only about what's in the bill but what's not in the bill, and i want to read, if i can, one paragraph to demonstrate that point. our concerns about this legislation also extend to what is not in the bill. the right to privacy contract is a touchstone of american freedom and liberty. patients should have the right to choose their doctor and enter into agreements for the fees and for those services without penalty. current medicare patients are denied that right. by guaranteeing all patients the right to privately contract with their physicians without penal penalty, patients will have the graifort access to the -- greater access to the physicians and the government will have budget certainty. nothing in the patient protection and affordable care act addresses those fundamental tenets which we believe are essential components of real health system reform." that's a pretty strong same from 92,000 american physicians about this particular piece of legislation. and to follow up on the point made by the distinguished
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senator from south carolina, i've got a vested intvment i just got my med -- i've got a vested interest. i just got my medicare card. december 1, i became medicare eligible. so when you talk about cutting $474 billion, it gets personal t. gets personal for all those other seniors. and think about it. seniors in america have paid their entire lives, or at least since 1966, when medicare was created, have paid a tax and they're -- their employs have paid a payroll tax to go -- their employers have paid a payroll tax to go into a trust fund to pay for their health care after they're 65 year year. we're now basically saying, the senator from south carolina, we're going to take $474 billion of the tax money you have paid over years of the work and we're going to put it in a play to pay for somebody else's health care. i mean, that's basically what it does. and that's patently wrong. one other thing i want to mention that i -- that is critical to me. there's been a lot -- and, you know, we are all professionals at what we do. we all argue from our point of view. and i understand tha


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